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Early Music

An introduction to the beguiling melodies of maftirim

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  Turkish architecture

In Turkey and Greece, as far back as the 16th century, groups of cantors and religious figures used to gather in the early morning, before prayer services, to sing devotional poetry in Hebrew. This gave rise to a distinct and complex form of music called maftirim, which only the most talented men could master.

These small gatherings were part of a broader musical exchange under the Ottoman empire: Muslim Sufi mystics would come to synagogue on the Sabbath to listen to the maftirim. And the Jewish maftirim singers would visit Sufi lodges for musical inspiration.

Professor Edwin Seroussi, director of the Jewish Music Research Center at Hebrew University, is one of the key scholars involved in unearthing, and reviving, the forgotten musical tradition of maftirim. Daniel Estrin spoke with him in Jerusalem about his journey of discovery, which led him to record some of the last surviving maftirim singers.

Photo: yeni cami by zeynep’arkok / Zeynep Arkök; some rights reserved.

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Rachel Bortnick says:

THANK YOU for this wonderful interview and podcast. The newly published book (360 pages) +4 CD+1 DVD set, MAFTIRIM, recently published in Istanbul (in which prof. Seroussi had a big role), is a treasurehouse!!! I hope all university libraries rush to buy one by writing to:

Itˇ¦s actually a cool and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.


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Early Music

An introduction to the beguiling melodies of maftirim

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